Is Curlin’s racing career unequaled?

In a statement distributed to the media late Saturday night, Jess Jackson, majority owner of reigning Horse of the Year Curlin, announced that the 4-year-old colt will be retired to stud in 2009 but could race one more time if the conditions were right. He then goes on to make a case for Curlin’s record being the best ever.

“Curlin has proven himself across two continents with 16 starts, the honor of 2007 Horse of the Year and the greatest North American money-earner in racing history,” Jackson said in the release. “He always gave it his all and has done everything we have asked of him. I am proud to announce that he will start a new career in 2009 and contribute his soundness, stamina, durability and athleticism to the breed. I am looking forward to seeing his foals compete and possibly exceed his unequaled racing record.”

Unequaled racing record? Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Jackson deserves kudos for racing Curlin as a 4-year-old at a time when many owners of valuable racehorses retire their stars after their 3-year-old seasons. That’s good for their wallets, but bad for a sport that needs more equine heroes like Curlin, Big Brown and Zenyatta. Curlin was a very, very good colt, good enough to win the Preakness Stakes when he was still relatively inexperienced, good enough to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup in consecutive years and good enough to travel to Dubai and win the world’s richest race last March.

But unequaled racing record? Yes, he’s North America’s all-time leading money-winner, but is there anyone out there who would argue that horses the likes of Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Forego and others who raced beyond their 3-year-old years could not have won the Dubai World Cup if the race had been around then and would not have earned much more money than they did if the purses had been as large then as they are now? I mean, how much money would the great gelding Forego have won if they had the size purses back in the 1970’s that they have now?

Let’s hear from some of you readers … is Curlin one of the all-time greats, does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Seattle Slew and other great horses of the past? Or is he just a very good horse whose legacy may or may not be enhanced because he set the all-time earnings record in an age where $500,000 and million-dollar purses are now the norm rather than the exception for some of these prestigious Grade I races like the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup?

Sorry, but Curlin doesn’t even crack my top-five list of all-time horses, which includes Spectacular Bid, Secretariat, Affirmed, Ruffian and Forego.

8 thoughts on “Is Curlin’s racing career unequaled?

  1. Oh God,no. Curlin would not even be in my top 50. Like Big Brown, Curlin is a positively dreamy looking individual, and is among the best to come along in recent years. But he can’t compare to the true Great Ones. I do like the fact that in appearance, he resembles the horses of yesteryear, and that’s important.

    It’s hard to describe why he does not rank with the greats. I believe that when great athletes appear, you will know when you see them. But maybe I’m wrong, and maybe Curlin does rank well with the others.

    Certainly NOT with Man O’ War, Citation, Ruffian, and Secretariat!!!!!

  2. It is simply ludicrous to mention Curlin in the same breath as so many top notch horses before him.

    Frankly put the history of racing does not simply begin in 2000. Further what is it exactly that Curlin is leaving racing as a legacy? Where are the track records be it time or margin of victory? There is only a three-way tie for the Preakness Stakes for record time and the fleeting earnings record which is meaningless.

    It is very hard to say he was even better then Invasor who also won the BCC, several US Grade 1 races, and also Uruguay’s Triple Crown. He too was ranked in his time #1 in the world as an active runner and was an Eclipse winner. Injury is all that sidelined him.

    To vault Curlin in the rank of the greats is an insult to horses like, for example, Exterminator who toted the breaking weights, ran from under a mile to over 2 1/2 miles, took on the older and younger runners time and again and still would win. He still hold 80+ years later the record for the most stakes victories ever.

    If a mythical race could held bringing back those runners of old can anyone with a straight face say Curlin wouldn’t be defeated soundly by the likes of John Henry, Dr. Fager, Kelso, War Admiral, Citation, Round Table, etc.

    I’d go so far as to say Flying Paster, The Bid’s rival, would’ve knocked the stuffing out of Curlin. It’s irksome that just because modern fans didn’t witness the likes of an Exceller in person they discount what jaw dropping performances they contributed to the game.

    Curlin has done nothing wrong and is very good horse but jaw dropping? Nope.

  3. Curlin is a great horse, but he has not done anything to be mentioned with the all-time greats. Compare his PPs to Cigar, for instance, and you’ll see there is no comparison. The guys at DRF are drstically over-rating this horse for some reason.

  4. Some of you sound like the guy from Saturday Night Live who prefaced his complaints with “In my day….”

    Racing was different when Secretariat and other great horses of the past ran (which is when I started paying attention to racing). Training was different. For starters, none of them ran on the drugs today’s horses are given routinely. Questions have been raised about the overall soundness of 21st century Thoroughbreds thanks to the rampant drug abuse of the past 25 years. Curlin is sound, strong and has dazzled in many of his races.

    There’s no way to compare him fairly to the great horses of the past. He was born, raised, trained and raced under a different system than the one that produced them.

    These past two years, Curlin has been great – the best I’ve seen for some time AND durable to boot. He deserves to be ranked among the best.

  5. You do not know if a horse from history would have beaten Curlin. On any given day it is a horse race, anything can happen.

    I get the feeling Glimmerglass has lived many past lives and owned many great horses. Noelle has pointed out how these times are different. The running surfaces are also subject to these times let alone the breeding, feed, drugs. Even the reporting of a great horse has changed. Basically there isn’t any.

    Curlin gets people to the blogs for whatever reason.To bad these people did not go to the track to see him. He deserves more than that. He showed up and ran his heart out in the toughest races the US and Dubai had to offer. Timeform rated him the best in the world, what the hell.

    He is the best we have right now and he deserves respect from all of us who love racing.

  6. P.S.
    Cannot people let Jesse Jackson be proud of his horse for crying out loud.

    Articles like this just bring out the Curlin haters who have never had anything nice to say about this horse. Curlin could be a brother to Pegasus and still fly under the radar.

    He is the best we have had for awhile, he is proven and yes he will be in the books like it or not. Let him do the screwing now.

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